November 29, 2022

MPI: Buhari did not throw 133m Nigerians into poverty (2)

Minister of state for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba

Continuing from yesterday, the discourse concludes today with the assurance that the Federal Government will continue to expand its social protection and poverty reduction strategies into states to deliver on its commitment to lift citizens out of extreme poverty

By Prince Clem Ikanade Agba

THE MPI is not just a measurement tool, but one that helps with behavioural and perception change. Nigerians need to understand that just because an individual earns a daily income above $1.90, that is, NGN850, this does not automatically mean the individual is not poor. 

This is the crux of the perception change that the MPI brings to the fore and seeks to change. For example, in Bayelsa, currently the second poorest state after Sokoto, the proportion of multidimensionally poor children under five is above 50 percent in all states but greater than 95 percent in Bayelsa. 

This means that even though, a household may earn above the daily income of NGN 850 or NGN 135 415 per annum per capita, if a child within this household is deprived in child indicators such as in nutrition, school attendance, and child engagement across the 15 MPI indicators, such a household and child are identified as multidimensionally poor.

 This new understanding of poverty beckons ordinary Nigerians to demand accountability in government, especially at sub-national levels where poverty is most prevalent.  This type of attitude shift necessitates changes in the architecture of who we vote into elective positions.

When social and economic investment decisions are not based on data evidence such as that provided by the MPI, we will continue to perpetuate the cycle of poverty, given the current approach in which state governors continue to invest and compete in borrowing to build monuments such as airports and flyovers despite data to the contrary. 

Rather, resources should be directed toward alleviating deprivation in the health sector, such as by investing in the State Health Insurance Scheme to provide universal health coverage or improving the efficiency and effectiveness of primary health care centres, PHCs, of which only about 20 percent of the 30,000 in the country are operational.  The results are quite revealing, and they reiterate the call for judgement in choosing the right leadership, especially when one considers the poverty dynamics between the current ruling party’s (APC) states and those of the major opposition party (PDP).

It is significant to highlight that, for instance, Kano and Kogi, two Northern APC governed states, are the least poor in the North. Recall that 65 per cent, that is, 86 million of the 133 million Nigerians who are MPI poor, are from the North. 

Meanwhile, even though the South-West contributes the lowest number of MPI poor, that is, 16.27 million persons, Oyo State, a PDP ruled state, is one of the poorest in the region. 

The two states with the lowest deprivations across all the dimensions are Lagos (29.4 per cent) and Ondo (the least poor nationally; 27.2 per cent), both APC governed states. In Oyo State, about half of its 7.8 million (48.7 per cent) population is MPI poor. 

In terms of the interlinkages between poverty and natural resources, it is troubling to note that in spite of being an oil producing state and one of the top five states with the highest FAAC allocations, Bayelsa, a PDP state with less than three million people, is the second poorest state in the Federation, much worse off than Kano (21st in the poverty ranking), which has a population of approximately 16 million persons. 

In Nigeria, poverty has traditionally been measured in monetary terms. This approach analyses the consumption and expenditure of a household to estimate its living standards. The last monetary poverty estimate as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics, was 40.1 percent for 2019, pre-COVID.

The same agency’s 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index Survey results use a completely different method to assess an individual’s or household’s poverty status.Unlike monetary measurement, it uses deprivations in basic amenities as a means of assessing poverty.  Globally, where both measures have been used, the multidimensional measure more often records a higher level since it considers a range of issues in arriving at a conclusion about a person’s living standard. 

As clearly stated in the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index Survey report published by the National Bureau of Statistics, this survey is the first stand-alone MPI survey to be conducted in Nigeria with this level of disaggregation. It also indicates that poverty is predominantly a rural phenomenon, particularly when considering the dimensions driving poverty in each state, which vary from state to state. 

This survey exercise was commissioned with the intent of using it as a diagnostic and policy-making tool to address issues of poverty, as it clearly spells out the areas, which government at all levels can work to improve the living standards of citizens. An intrinsic value of the multidimensional poverty measurement is the localization of the incidence and intensity of poverty. 

The 2022 Nigeria MPI survey findings are a direct reflection of the failure of local and state governments to provide opportunities for citizens to participate in economic activities, and basic social amenities that are within the remit of states and local governments. 

Given the above, the idea, therefore, that the Federal Government has thrown 133 million people into poverty after committing to lift 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years, is false and misleading. 

Nonetheless, the Federal Government remains unflinching in its efforts to address the root causes of the multiple deprivations Nigerians face, especially at sub-national levels, and will continue to expand its social protection and poverty reduction strategies into states to deliver on its commitment to lift millions out of extreme poverty.

* Prince  Agba is Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning and supervises the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS.